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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unwrapping a Bit of the Enigma, October 17, 2005
This review is from: Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief (Library of Religious Biography) (Paperback)
This book is a rarity: a work of biography and literary criticism that isn't a chore to plow through. Roger Lundin's style, unlike that of most academics who pursue the great classics of literature, is lucid and uncomplicated. There isn't, as I recall, a tortured sentence in the entire book.

Besides this not-to-be-discounted virtue, there are other important ones as well. Since the book is guided by Lundin's thesis, which has to do with issues of faith as they are expressed in Dickinson's work, the focus is tight, producing a similarly focused narrative. No time is wasted on speculations about Dickinson's sex life, for example, though the readily verifiable is certainly reviewed in the pages of the book. About Dickinson's relationship with the man she came close to marrying, Otis P. Lord, we'd probably like to hear more. But again, the record is incomplete because much of the correspondence between the principals was destroyed, and Lundin doesn't overstep, sticking to what can be proved.

This is not strictly a critical biography, so those poems tjat Lundin examines are considered only briefly--just closely enough to explain their relationship to his thesis. Lundin chooses judiciously, as he does among the letters and personal accounts centering on Dickinson. Besides, he relates Dickinson's thinking on matters of faith to spiritual and intellectual trends in 19th-century America, and this is among the most important features of the work, especially since he cites a number of noted authorities on the place of religion in American history. If you have any interest in such issues, Lundin's citations will probably send you on a further quest.

Only rarely did I say to myself, "I'd like to hear more about that topic." Lundin develops his thesis with skill and with great sympathy for his subject. He certainly doesn't explain the enigma that is Emily Dickinson, but he moves us closer to an understanding of this frustratingly, fascinatingly complex artist.
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